Mormonism, the hot religious cult that swept the nation.
In the early nineteenth century there was a Second Great Awakening in New England, the perfect time to make up a new denomination, as the local rubes were just wetting themselves with excitement about Christianity. Strangely enough, they were also dripping with piss over treasure hunting, but unfortunately for them, the metal detector hadn't been invented yet.
And Along Came Joseph Smith.
Professional scryer and purveyor of cake, beer, and the crazy white folk's yabble-dabble that was so stylish at the time. For a price young Smith could help you find your fortune with nothing but a hat full of rocks. Like the Miss Cleo of his day, his "for entertainment purposes only" hoodoo was getting him into a pant-load of trouble, but rather than feeling any understandable fear or remorse by this time, Smith was apparently filled with spiritual conflict, as he was surrounded by religions of every kind, (and by "every kind", we mean "every kind based on Christianity") and just didn't know which was the true church. Then, while on a soul searching walk in the woods, presumably on his way to a snake-oil seminar, a pillar of light in the sky, summoned by a glorious Nordic Jesus, pinned him to the ground. After the formality of a brief probing, NJ instructed Smith to create the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a religion based on many plausible beliefs. As in the belief that magic underpants will protect you from sin, or that, after his resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus Christ returned to earth and -- rather than do a victory lap of the Middle East -- he went straight for Northern Missouri. Why not?
The Mormon church caught on like a wildfire of clean livin' and Manifest Destiny, but around 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois, Smith had finally landed himself in prison on several charges, most harem-related. An angry mob came to deal him a taste of hillybilly learnin', but, assuming they were the legion sent to rescue him, Smith lost his chance to escape and was shot to death, falling out of a window.
Despite reports that Smith wished that he have no successor as President of the Church, or the fact that the next logical successor was Sidney Rigdon, Smith's First Counselor, apostle and crazy-beard enthusiast Brigham Young somehow managed argue his way into position of senior leader. Future governor of the territory of Utah, Young was what most people conjure in their minds when they think of Mormons. He put the pioneers to work building him settlements, recruited a blood-thirsty Jesus-freak militia, started a wife factory, revoked the priesthood for black church members (who he called "the seed of Cain"), waged a war on the United States Government, then deceived local Native Americans into helping him fight it, leading to the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the brutal slaughter of over one-hundred and twenty men, women and children. He also started the Tabernacle Choir.
In the insuring years, the Mormon church began to mellow out as they were allowed to carve their culture into the Utah landscape, and became a people known for their good behavior -- living clean lives, helping the needy, and baptizing dead people -- hardly ever doing a thing to draw scorn from the populous, until the late 1950s. Then the Osmonds came on the scene....